Laser hair removal had been on my “someday” list ever since a kid in my A.P. Chemistry class commented on my mustache. (I’m partly Southern Italian with robust hair follicles—what can I say?) Obviously the kid was a jerk and there’s nothing wrong with body hair, but the fact remained that as I got older, I still wanted it gone. When I finally got around to it, though, I had a lot of questions. Is laser hair removal painful? How many sessions was I in for? Was my skin—always tans, never burns, year-round medium—too dark for laser hair removal?
The process is more complicated than other in-office procedures, which is why it requires a bit more explanation than, say, your average chemical peel. Here’s what you need to know—and everything I certainly wish I’d known—before booking an appointment.
Think of laser hair removal as a video game, says Ellen Marmur, M.D., a dermatologist at Marmur Medical in New York City. The laser seeks out pigment in your skin, which is typically found in the base of your hair follicle. Once the laser locates the hair follicle root, which houses your hair stem cells, “the laser then converts from light energy to heat and basically explodes it,” she says. The hair root dies, and the hair falls out.